Fire chief: Connecticut mosque fire appears to be arson

May 13, 2019
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In this photo provided by Lina Biroscak, a fire burns at a mosque, Sunday, May 12, 2019, in New Haven, Conn. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire. (Lina Biroscak via AP)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A weekend fire at a Connecticut mosque is being investigated as arson.

New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said Monday investigators found evidence showing the fire at the Diyanet Mosque was intentionally set and a criminal investigation involving state and federal authorities has begun.

Police and fire officials declined to disclose the nature of the evidence, saying they did not want to say anything that could hinder that investigation.

“We are taking this very serious,” said New Haven interim Police Chief Otoniel Reyes. “We are working with our federal and state partners to make sure that there is no underlying issue to the greater community and to the greater religious community.”

The fire, which occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, broke out at about 4 p.m. on Sunday, starting on the first floor of the mosque and spreading to the second.

One person was inside when flames broke out, but they escaped, Alston said. No one was hurt.

The front of the mosque was under construction, but some areas were still being used for worship.

Alston said fire officials were working with the mosque on Monday to help salvage religious artifacts. The building, he said, is currently unusable.

Mosque president Haydar Elevli said area churches have offered his congregation a place to hold services.

Fire officials in New Haven, Connecticut say state police will investigate whether a fire at a mosque was suspicious. WTNH-TV reports worshippers raised funds for years to build the mosque. Construction was not complete before Sunday's fire. (May 13)

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont visited the mosque and said he finds “an attack like this especially hurtful and hateful when you attack an institution for what people believe.”

Lamont said the state will do everything it can to ensure that members of the mosque can return to worship “right here in this place.”

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